SURFSIDE, Fla — One week after the unimaginable collapse of a 136-unit oceanfront condominium in the small but picturesque town of Surfside, the round-the-clock search to find survivors and recover victims in the mountain of rubble came to halt at just after 2 a.m. Thursday morning.
“We were forced to halt rescue operations in the early hours of the morning due to structural concerns,” said Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
According to Miami-Fire Rescue, movement in a large column, some concrete slabs, and a pile of debris prompted concerns that what’s left of the Champlain Tower South could fall.
“District Command will work with structural engineers and other subject matter experts to develop options for continued rescue operations,” said the county’s Fire Rescue Director Alan Cominsky that morning.
However, as of 6 p.m. Thursday afternoon, rescue crews got the ok to restart search efforts.
The daylong standstill came on the same day the President and First Lady arrived to comfort families and thank first responders.
President Joe Biden met with local and state leaders in the morning and offered full government support.
By day’s end, some 500 federal workers, including members of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), were expected to be on the ground in Surfside offering assistance.
“Just a simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done is really what makes a difference,” the President said during a briefing with Governor Ron DeSantis and other local, state, and federal leaders.
Then, the President spent time with the first responders before meeting privately with families, all grieving while trying to hang onto hope their loved one would be found alive.
“She was just a wonderful human being,” said Kevin Spiegel about his wife of 39-years, Judy. He described Judy as a former educator, a devoted mother, and grandmother who was known at her 4-year old granddaughter’s school for keeping extra car seats in her car in case parents needed her to pick up their children.
“We told Scarlett that grandma is missing, she’s lost and Scarlett said ‘I know all of her hiding spots, I’ll find her,’ said an emotional Spiegel.
But with each day, the hope of finding any survivors of the historic collapse diminishes.
After his private meeting with the families, President Biden described the families as “realists. They all look and they see those floors, just literally feet of cement upon cement upon the cement,” he said.
The night before, officials for the first time, confirmed the deaths of two children- 10-year-old Lucia and 4-year-old Emma Guara who perished along with their parents Ana and Marcus.
New images show the depth of the disaster and the near-impossible task rescue workers are taking to find survivors.
One image from Miami-Dade fire rescue shows rescuers trying to get to a woman they heard trapped in the hours after the collapse. A wall of concrete was just one of the obstacles standing in their way of saving her.
“Eventually, we didn’t hear her voice anymore,” said Fire Rescue Director Cominsky.
In a voicemail also recently released, you can hear condo resident Raysa Rodriguez scream after realizing her building was crumbling.
“Oh my god, what the hell, the entire building is gone,” Rodriguez said before, reportedly, managing to escape.
The President offered prayers, hope, and full federal support as the investigation begins into why and how this 13-story tower managed to pancake to the ground, bringing nearly everyone inside with it.
“Our message today is that we're here for you, as one nation,” the President said